Skyview High School seniors and Key Club members Amanda Eastman and McKenzee Foos suspected something was up Monday when their parents attended the service organization’s luncheon during its annual state convention in Billings.
But Eastman and Foos said they still were surprised when they were honored for their fundraising efforts through the school’s TWIRP dances to help eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in the world.
More than 150 fellow Key Club members attending the Montana District Key Club Convention from across the state cheered and gave Eastman and Foos a standing ovation during the presentation held at the Holiday Inn Grand Montana.
The girls, both 18, received medallions and certificates for raising $2,500 for Project Eliminate, a joint effort between the Kiwanis International Foundation and UNICEF to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus through vaccinations. The disease is present in some African countries, Indonesia, India and other countries.
About $2,100 of the donation came from Skyview’s TWIRP dance and the remainder from other donations.
TWIRP is a traditional girl-asks-guy dance. The acronym stands for The Woman Is Requested to Pay.
Nikki Wohler, a Skyview science teacher and Key Club adviser, announced the awards and said Eastman and Foos “showed an incredible dedication to the cause.”
In two years of raising money for Project Eliminate, Eastman and Foos “have saved almost 2,100 lives,” Wohler said.
Eastman and Foos each was recognized as a Walter Zeller Fellow, named after a founder of the Kiwanis foundation in 1940. Fellows are those who donate $1,250 to the Eliminate Project. A $1,250 donation saves 690 women and their babies from tetanus through vaccinations.
“This year we saved 1,400 people” from the disease, Foos said. “One baby dies every nine minutes. That hits you hard,” she said.
“And it can be completely prevented,” Eastman said.
Eastman and Foos, who met in Key Club and who each have been president, took that message to Skyview’s physical education and health classes with presentations last year to raise awareness and to seek students’ support by attending the TWIRP dance. Three dollars of every dance ticket sold went to Project Eliminate, they said.
Eastman and Foos each spent 120 hours planning the TWIRP dance, which drew more than 600 students last November.
The 2012 TWIRP dance was the first year Eastman and Foos raised money for Project Eliminate, and the school’s Key Club donated $1,250. Last year, the girls wanted to do better.
Wohler said Eastman and Foos approached her last year about wanting to raise more money for Project Eliminate. The students wanted to make the donation and dance bigger and better, Wohler said.
The girls wanted to help Kiwanis reach its goal of raising $110 million by 2015 to wipe out the disease.
“It’s something we can do. It’s not hard,” Eastman said.
Skyview’s Key Club has 43 members and more students who help, said Wohler.
Eastman, the daughter of Shelly Eastman, said that after high school she wants to have a career in event planning.
Foos, the daughter of Shari and Brian Foos, said she wants to become a middle school counselor to help kids “make the right decisions.”
Skyview High School Principal Deb Black praised the time and effort Eastman and Foos put into the project. She called the students her “go-to people.” When she sees a student struggling, Black said, she goes to Eastman and Foos.
“They’ll sit down and have lunch with someone sitting by themselves. What I see with these two is their ability to make all kids feel welcome,” Black said. “They don’t look within. They’re looking outside of themselves,” she said.